Healthy Choices

WHO warns against Ebola scams and deadly myths

Liberian officials post a “know-your-facts” sign urging citizens to wash their hands often.
Liberian officials post a “know-your-facts” sign urging citizens to wash their hands often. CDC

The World Health Organization, master planner of the planet’s battle against the deadly Ebola virus, is warning of various fraudulent schemes claiming to be raising funds for the eradication effort.

“Beware of scams implying association with the WHO,” organization leaders said in a news release urging the public to spurn the deceptive requests for money.

“Many of these scams request detailed information and/or money from individuduals, businesses or non-profit organizations with the promise that they will receive funds or other benefits in return,” the WHO release said.

Most of the phony solicitations are sent as e-mails from rogue websites. In many cases, somebody will call or fax to try to collect money unlawfully.

Some schemes display the WHO logo, and refer to e-mail adddresses made to look like WHO or the United Nations’ addresses.

“In particular, WHO suggests that recipients do not send money or personal information in response to invitations from anyone who claims to be awarding jobs, funds, grants, scholarships, certificates, lottery winnings, or prizes, and/or who requests payment for registration feeds and hotel room reservations in the name of WHO,” the release said.

At the same time, WHO officials said they calculate it will take about $260 million to stamp out the current outbreak, the worst ever since the virus was discovered along the Ebola River, from which it got its name, in 1960.

As of last week, the WHO had received only half of that. Another 15 percent has been pledged, leaving a shortfall of 36 percent of funds needed.

For decades, the organization has warned its worldwide member states that poor countries in Africa just recovering from civil strife were ripe for rapid outbreaks because of a lack of sufficient public health facilities.

Meanwhile, people in Western Africa were being asked to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly – using a highly dilluted solution of 0.05 percent chlorine and water for the most effective sanitation.

But a myth is circulating in West Africa that health care workers should drink a chlorine or disinfectant solution to avoid Ebola virus or cure the disease.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials issued a strong warning against heeding the rumors, saying, “Chlorine is NOT a cure for Ebola. No one should ever drink chlorine or disinfectant solutions containing chlorine. When chlorine, sometimes called bleach, is swallowed it can make people very sick or be fatal.”

So far, in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal, the disease had sickened 13,042 people and killed 4,818 as of Nov. 2, officials with WHO said, although they acknowledged the real numbers are likely higher than those.

Robust trials of recently developed vaccines for Ebola are schedule to ramp up in December.

Call The Bee’s Cynthia H. Craft, (916) 321-1270.ola